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5 mins

Make Meditation Work For You With These 3 Tips from Dan Harris

Meditation skeptic? This Shortcast episode with ABC anchor, New York Times bestselling author and meditation advocate, Dan Harris, might just change your mind.
by Vincent Quantmeyer | Oct 21 2020

Do you feel meditation simply isn’t for you? Does it feel like a waste of time or are you doubtful it would do you any good?

In this Shortcast, ABC anchor and professional skeptic, Dan Harris, shares how meditation changed his life and how it can have benefits for everyone, even if you don’t buy into the spiritual side of the practice.

Here are three benefits of meditation that Harris highlights in the conversation to get you started. You can listen to the Shortcast now in the Blinkist app.

1. We can learn to recognize the voice in our head

What has the voice in your head told you today? Don’t worry—we all have one! From our first glimpse of the morning to the moment we fall asleep, our mind provides non-stop commentary on everything we do and perceive.

Whatever your day looks like, your mind wraps a story around everything that happens. Sadly, your mind is a worryingly-biased commentator and a lot of these stories shed an unforgiving, negative light on you. You know the ones. You should really go to the gym more often. You shouldn’t have talked so much in the meeting. You should really know more about what’s going on in politics. And so it continues.

Yet, however critical the voice might be, meditation helps you to see that there is an alternative to letting it push you around and erode your sense of self-worth. We can notice it, recognize it for what it is, choose not to believe it, and simply let it go and come back to what we’re doing right here and now.

2. Your mind isn’t too busy to meditate

This incessant stream of thoughts causing waves in our mind can easily lead us to assume that meditation doesn’t work for us. We believe we simply cannot meditate because there is too thick a cloud of thoughts between us and the blissful state of calm we think we’re expected to attain. But that’s missing the point of the practice. Having a busy mind is part of being human.

And having thoughts wash over you while you’re trying to focus on nothing but your breath isn’t an obstacle, but a natural part of meditating. In fact, it’s an opportunity! Each time we recognize that our attention has drifted off into plans for dinner or what’s next on the to-do list or imagining your dream vacation, we train our mind to unwind from the stories and to return to the present. Noticing that you were distracted isn’t a sign of failure, it’s a moment of success.

Each time you notice your attention wandering you’re strengthening your ability to be aware of what is happening right now—otherwise known as mindfulness. In fact, neuroscientific research has shown that meditation can alter the anatomy of your brain towards greater attention and better emotional regulation.

3. One minute counts

Time can be the biggest hurdle to overcome in establishing a regular meditation routine. Our existing schedules can be so busy that it seems impossible to make space for an additional daily commitment.

The good news is that, while it’s fantastic to devote 15 minutes or more to meditation every day, you don’t have to start that way. In fact, as Dan Harris argues, one minute can be enough to catch a first glimpse of the benefits that meditation has to offer. One minute a day is very likely all it takes to start recognizing the aforementioned voice in your head and thus can be a gateway into longer periods of practice.

And while a daily routine can be extremely beneficial, a daily-ish practice is just as good a reason to be happy with your commitment. We can have the best intentions to set aside time each and every day, but inevitably there will be times when circumstances outside your control conspire to break your streak. Instead of using this to chastise yourself for a lack of commitment and discipline, treat yourself with compassion and acknowledge the efforts you are already putting into the practice.

If these ideas have encouraged you to have a go yourself or if you’re curious about the personal story that brought professional skeptic Dan Harris to promote the benefits of meditation, check out our blinks to his book 10% Happier. If, after that, you’re still not convinced, why not try Harris’s latest book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. And don’t forget to check out the Shortcast of this conversation on the Blinkist app.

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